HOUSTON — Baby boomers are empty nesters with more disposable income, and millennials are more focused on value and feeding their families, while Generation Alpha is the most diverse generation to date, with more adventurous tastes.

That was the word from Megan Lynberg, vice president of sales at Datassential, who spoke at IDDBA 2024.

“Gen Alpha, first of all, these are kids that are about 13 years old and younger right now,” Lynberg said. “They are the children of millennials. Millennials are traditional foodies. They are interested in new foods and flavors, and they've passed this on to their kids. They're global in nature. They've been exposed to different foods. They might have some health focus, and it's just a really interesting dynamic between their millennial parents and the alphas. Millennials also tend to be a little bit nostalgic, and so they really love bringing some of the brands of their past into their kids’ lives.”

Lynberg touched on several factors influencing the various generations and the food they’re drawn to, and she wasn’t the only speaker looking into generational trends. Steve Zurek, director, sales development for North American sales operations, NielsenIQ, explored the generational trends and the evolving world of consumer packaged goods.

Zurek talked about the various digital journeys of consumers and how they are scouring the internet, constantly looking for the best deals and where they can find their favorite products. The pandemic, of course, quickly moved consumers toward digital shopping.

“Everybody got pushed to online,” he said. “We saw a resurgence back or an overcorrection back into stores, and now we're kind of on this slow build, somewhere in a hybrid between in-person and online shopping.”

Zurek said shoppers respond to deals of 5% to 15% and more off as it’s hard to get a good hold on price points since inflation pushed all items higher over the past two years.

“A lot of shoppers are doing some form of online purchasing, whether it's delivering to the home or it's being a click-and-collect kind of situation,” Zurek said. “If we start throwing households with kids into the mix of any of our analyses, you can see a very stressed, time-starved shopper because they're moving into convenience categories. They're spending more time online. And picking up groceries curbside.”

Millennials who are busy raising families are value driven, Lynberg said.

“As you think about unique foods and flavors, as we think about what we're seeing in the restaurant industry right now with pricing, this certainly has an impact on millennials,” she said, “The oldest millennials are 42, so they're a little bit more aware of family-friendly foods and activities and experiences, and they're certainly drawn more to that.”

Generation Z, people aged 14 to 27, are adventurous and like new, fun experiences, Lynberg noted.

“In terms of their stage in life, they are adventurous. With food, they also love experiences,” she said. “Whether you're foodservice or you're the foodservice at grocery retail, there's an opportunity for you here. And even in c-store as well. And they're craving those experiences. They're craving food and fun.”

Lynberg also pointed out that indulgence is a frequent occasion for consumers, especially for younger generations, but there are nuances to the foods and flavors, such as Gen Z liking spicier foods. She also said that while Gen Z is driving interest in new flavors, boomers are gaining fast awareness of the trends. She also discussed how trends are coming back around, such as the rise of the classic nonalcoholic drink Shirley Temples.